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Producing Argument Maps

The exercises in these tutorials ask you to produce argument maps.  Also, you might want to produce arguments maps of your own, for study, work or just out of interest.  So how do you go about actually creating an argument map?

There are basically three approaches:

  1. By hand. You can always take out pencil and paper, ruler etc. and produce maps by hand.  This is easier if you have one of those clear plastic templates which give you squares, rectangles, straight lines, arrows etc.. Producing maps by hand is easy and convenient for simple maps.  However for more complicated maps it soon becomes impractical - especially when you need to make changes.  (You always need to make changes!) 
  2. Generic software.  You can use generic software with drawing or diagramming features; examples include Powerpoint, Visio, Inspiration and ConceptDraw.  However this is a bit of a trap, compared with the other two methods.  First, unless you use a very sophisticated package such as Visio, there are certain kinds of structures in argument mapping which it will be difficult if not impossible for you to create.  Second, generic packages require that you have a high level of understanding of what you are trying to achieve, and even then producing even moderately complex maps is a very time-consuming business. 
  3. Argument Mapping Software.  In general, the best approach is to use software built specifically for argument mapping.   Currently available packages include Athena, Araucaria, and Rationale™. Using specialised argument mapping software will help you construct and modify professional-looking maps quickly and easily. An added advantage of using such software is that it provides strong "scaffolding."  That is, the only structures you can build are argument maps.  If you use generic software, you have more flexibility, but this increases the chance of mistakes.  As with most tasks, the right tools help you get the job done faster and at a higher standard.


Almost all the diagrams in these tutorials were all created using the Rationale™ software (though many were edited further using a graphics program).  Rationale™ is a general purpose argument mapping software package.

Rationale is inexpensive and can be obtained from www.reasoninglab.com.

Printing Argument Maps

Arguments can get complicated, and a map of a complex argument can be very large.  Simple maps can be printed on normal A4 or US Letter paper; you might find it helps to print in landscape mode. 

As maps get more complicated, printouts need to be larger.  An A3-size printer, if you can get access to one, is very useful.  (I have an A3 colour inkjet printer on my desk, used for little other than printing argument maps.)  For maps that are larger still, you can either print on multiple pages, then stick them together by hand; or send your map to a specialist printing outfit. 

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